Eric’s a good friend. He turns 80 this year. He’s lively, fun, interesting and an inspiration for ageing well. He’s not a doddering ‘old man’ and looks significantly younger than his actual age. When I asked him recently what he thought was the secret to ageing well, this is what he told me …
Let me start by saying that age stereotypes abound, usually painting a picture of doom and gloom about ageing. The grey tsunami. Fortunately, I have some great friends who age differently. Determined not to retire from work and life they continue to lead full lives that are truly inspirational. Eric is one of those people. His advice?
- Have a positive attitude. Whilst our bodies do change and doing the things we did when we were 21 is unrealistic, Eric’s advice is to adjust, rather than opt out. Don’t fight the changes. Work with them. For the golfers … Eric says he now uses a 6 iron instead of an 8 iron in his golf.
- Exercise regularly. Eric regularly walks, rides a push bike, and plays golf several times a week. He also plays tennis and beats his opponent regularly who is many years younger, and recently wished Eric was 5 years older so that he might win occasionally.
- Work longer. Eric was still working into his late 70’s. And, if he was asked to work on a project for a few months now and it was in his area of knowledge and expertise, he’d say “yes”.
- Never play the age card. Saying “I can’t/won’t do that because I’m too old” does nothing to keep you actively engaged with life.
- Never think the age card. Thinking “I can’t/won’t do that because I’m too old” is the same as saying it. Just don’t think or speak “I’m too old”.
If we look, there’s inspiration all around us. In 2015 a letter to the Editor in a Sydney newspaper shared the story of a 92 year old man studying for his HSC at TAFE. Of course YouTube is littered with vignettes of older people doing amazing things. Here’s one I like because the prejudices and beliefs we have about older people arise and then are challenged. Enjoy…
In complete contrast, how often do you hear older people talk about their doctors appointments? In fact their diaries will be filled with appointments. Not tennis. Not golf. Not walking. Not riding. Not travel or trips to the theatre or talks at the local library or Senior Citizens Centre. Doctors. There’s someone I see occasionally at my local dog park and when he discovered my interest in ageing he said: “I can tell you one thing. You see doctors a lot more.” (Oh, dear.)
Recently I met a fabulous Irishman, out from Ireland visiting his son. He’s in his 80’s. Lively, fun, and great to have a chat with. He’s part of a group of friends in Ireland who have called themselves the Active Retirement Group. They meet regularly to bush walk and arrange trips away together. Their one rule? You’re not allowed to talk about your health!
The final word from Eric is … stay fit, stay young and be a bit vain. He’s really happy to be where he is. No complaints.
Would love to hear your stories of inspiration for ageing well. Write to me.